Plotting Goodness

Scripture lesson: Exodus 1.8-2.10
The midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.
                            Exodus 1.17     New Revised Standard Version

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by Ed Horstmann

Our daily conversations are frequently seasoned by the appearance of the word good. Parents remind their children to be good; in the evening hours a loved one might ask us if we had a good day; and students will often speak of good teachers. It would seem that concerns about becoming a good person and enjoying the goodness of life are at the heart of what it means to be fully alive.

Interestingly enough, Jesus refused to be called good, reserving that designation for God alone. Yet surely he wanted us to express the goodness of God, as a clear glass of water allows light to pass through it. The goodness of God, radiating through the word or action of another is nothing less than an experience of sheer grace.

The Bible is full of people who are not always good in a purely moral sense, but who do uncommonly good things for others, and often without reason or hope of reward. Midwives in ancient Egypt deceived Egypt’s king and helped Israelite women to give birth to their children. Pharaoh’s own daughter rescued an infant boy who would grow to be the leader of a nation.

Where people choose the good, God is active and alive, further enhancing the goodness of a world created in love.

Prayer: O gracious God, restore in us the confidence that our world is a good place in which to live and share life, and help us to be for others an expression of your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

 

Fast Times, Slow Faith

“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections — with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds.”
                                 Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

Landscape_ Window Overlooking the Woods

by Ed Horstmann

Some years ago I was playing tennis with a friend and he made an observation about my game: “You look like you are rushing all your shots,” he said. “Maybe you have more time than you think you have.”

He was on to something. Since that day, on the tennis court and in other areas of my life, I have tried to be aware of a deeply entrenched instinct to rush things. Hans Rosling, a Swedish physician, academic, statistician, and public speaker, called this the urgency instinct, and sometimes it has great value. If I require the immediate intervention of an Emergency Medical Technician, I want that person to act quickly and decisively. On a much larger scale, planet earth is stressed out from centuries of human abuse, and the time is now for healing those wounds.

But even where urgent action is required, it is not wise to be rushed or hasty. The times when we feel that we have no time may be precisely the times when we most need to slow things down as much as possible; to think clearly and explore the options available to us before choosing a course of action. I believe that for a majority of the time available to us we have time, and can take time, and can make time to nurture our relationships and make good decisions. Because when we are not rushed we are more relaxed, and can enjoy what we are doing, and can experience time as a gift to be received rather than an obstacle to be overcome.

I think that fast times call for a slow faith: time to simmer and savor, ponder and pray. So when I’m out for a walk and find myself rushing along without looking around, I slow down, or stop altogether, and listen. What is nature saying to me? What is God saying to me through the lavish abundance of that world?

Fast times call for a slow faith: a faith that can call me to slow down my instincts to judge others too quickly or harshly, to rush to form an opinion before considering the facts in play, or to respond with roiling emotions when other alternatives (deep breathing!) are available.  Maybe slow faith is the antidote to road rage!

I’ve been reading my way through the biblical book of the Gospel of Mark: one verse per day. That gives me time to memorize the words so they can linger with me as I move through my daily responsibilities.

When I feel like I’m out of time, that’s a cue to slow the day down, to realize that I might have more time than I think I have. And even though the future of the planet is in peril, I am taking time to talk and think with others about the best way to dedicate my energy and resources to positive and impactful change.

“Much better to do fewer things and have time to make the most of them,” writes Carl Honoré.   For those who seek deeper connections with God, with others, with themselves, fast times call for a slow faith.

Response-ability

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.                – Margaret Mead

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by Ed Horstmann

When I was in sixth grade, I was a student at Iroquois Middle School in Niskayuna, New York. Along with my classmates I received a memorable introduction to the damage that human beings were inflicting on the environment. Through films and field trips and class presentations I was ushered into an awareness of my role as a steward of the earth and its resources. Every student in our school was given a copy of the book The Environmental Handbook, full of densely argued articles that told a grim history of human interaction with the planet and warned of worse to come.

Over the years I have dipped into The Environmental Handbook only occasionally, and its pages have yellowed in the place where it rests on a bookshelf in my home. But that initial message of my response-ability with respect to the future of planet earth has never waned, and its presence has prompted me to seek other voices of wisdom in my search for ways to leave a legacy of hope for future generations. In more recent years I have become even more engaged by the issue of environmental justice and have been inspired by members of our congregation for whom this issue is now a primary focus of attention.

Perhaps you, too, are thinking about how to make decisions and establish priorities that can bring good news to the creation and to those who will follow us. Perhaps you are already feeling called to live in a way or to take an action that will help you to become a greater force for good; not just to develop a green thumb but a green faith. You may also be feeling uncertain about the future and even more uncertain about how to engage such a vast challenge as climate change, or even whether changes in human behavior are possible. I am quite sure that if you are having any of these feelings, or all of them at once, you are not alone. I, too, am finding my own way through this thicket of thoughts and feelings.

I would welcome your thoughts or dreams, your ideas and your concerns as you contemplate the question of our response-ability on behalf of mother earth. Please write to me at egh@roundhillcommunitychurch.org. And I believe we can create the space together where a small group of committed citizens can be part of the change that the world needs most.